If "sure thing" is one of the most overused phrases for the NFL Draft, we enter 2014 NFL free agency knowing that "hometown discount" will be one of the most overused in March and beyond.
Simply put, the number of players who are willing to take less money to return to the city they spent their college or formative years in hovers near zero. I wouldn't be particularly inclined to move back to Maine and take less money in the process simply so I could be near where I grew up, and it's a rare NFL player indeed who would disagree with that.
Michael Bennett addressed this directly in the Seattle Times:
“There is no such thing as discount. This is not Costco, this is not Walmart – this is real life…There is no discount really because you go out there and you don’t give a discount on effort; you go out there and you give the best effort every day and you fight for your teammates, and you want to be compensated for the way that you perform and the kind of teammate you are.”
What does this mean for the Falcons? It means that you shouldn't expect Michael Johnson to shave a few million dollars off his contract to make his triumphant return to the city. It means that expecting any free agent to do more than pay lip service to how great the city of Atlanta is would be a waste of time and energy. Again, these guys have a small earnings window, and it would take extraordinary circumstances for them to give up money when there's a real risk that an injury cuts them down in their primes.
So expect for the Falcons to pay full market rate for any big name free agents with Georgia ties, Johnson in particular. If the guy's worth the money, we can all live with that.